ELEW rocks the Groban concert

A challenge to any storyteller/performer/artist is to find a way to be unique without being a freak. Those who excel at it are considered geniuses. Those who don’t are left to wonder why they didn’t connect.

On Saturday I experienced genius, in fact one more than I paid for.

For Diana’s birthday I bought her tickets to the Josh Groban concert in Seattle, which was this past Saturday (Aug. 27). I like him just fine, but don’t follow him. She likes him, too, and followed him some. Honestly, if Rufus Wainwright would have been scheduled to come I would have bought those tickets instead, but this was the best available at the time.

There is much to bemoan about the music industry. Artists used to make a lot of money selling albums and then would go on tour to generate record sales. Now it’s reversed. Recordings don’t generate a ton of money, but concerts do. The downside is that artists don’t do the eight-day shows they used to in one city and the ticket prices are obscene. They can make a bunch coming to town for one night and they end up having to travel less while still making a killing.

I haven’t read any data to support this, but I would guess that because the ticket prices are so much higher now that artists feel some obligation to improve the concerts they provide. In the 1970s a guy like Josh Groban might have traveled with a couple of other musicians, in part because he can drum and play the piano himself. Instead he’s got a few strings, some horns, two percussionists and two guitar players. He had a secret stage set up in the center of the arena that caught me by surprise. The giant wall depicting some sort of ruin had to be spendy and the light show was amazing. And props to him. He acknowledged that we paid up the “wazoo” (I think he said “wazoo”) for tickets so he was going to sing his ass off. (That part I know he said.)

That his show was top notch didn’t surprise me, though I am always amazed at just how good musicians are, and I include the strings and horns and drummers and guitarists in that compliment. His sound engineer even got up and played. Groban has been blessed with an amazing voice that he worked hard to refine. His show really is impressive. In particular he was singing a song about how someone he’s in a relationship with is “a machine,” and the arena lights would focus on the lights above the stage as they would rotate as though part of some huge industry. That was eerie, and really effective.

The real surprise of the night was the warm-up act, a lone man with a piano. Using a technique he calls “RockJazz,” ELEW played the heck out of cover tunes like “Smells Like Teen Spirt,” “Clocks” and “Sweet Home Alabama.” His style was so inventive I got to wondering about some of the back story behind his gift, about how he arrived at the style he chose. There is a story he is telling as he plays. Lo and behold, the guy was on “America’s Got Talent” and you get to hear some of inspired him to play like he does.

Watch the video to get a glimpse of what I’m talking about. Groban’s North American tour ends Tuesday, I believe, but ELEW will surely be around again somehow.

As an aside, ELEW apparently dropped out of the TV competition America’s Got Talent. Groban saw him on YouTube and asked him to join him. These days this is how legends are found.

Every anniversary is worth the wait

1996


2011


Fifteen years ago today I was sitting, waiting for Diana to arrive to the Salt Lake City LDS temple, where we were scheduled to get married that day. I was a bit nervous, because in the past I had made plans to get married before, enough times that when my mother called my brother Jim and told him I was engaged he responded, “Again?”

Diana did arrive and we did get married that day and today we celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary, clearly marking the best 15 years of my life, or any life, if I can be so narrow minded.

The fidgetiness during those moments of waiting was well earned. A few years earlier I had made an appointment to get married at the same place, and later called to cancel it. The woman on the other end of the phone asked if I wanted to reschedule it. I wanted to say, “Yes,” but there was no reason to, and I sensed she was pained by my response. I may have been projecting.

I had been to a few weddings in LDS temples. In Salt Lake City, probably more than any other temple, it can be like a scene out of the movie “Cousins,” where one of the weddings takes place in a location called “Weddingland.” All morning long you see people following a different bride all over the grounds. To someone not of the LDS faith, who because of the church’s unusual position of only letting card-carrying members into the temple ceremonies, the scene must be especially dreamlike. There were 42 weddings at the Salt Lake City temple the day Diana and I got married, but to an onlooker must have looked like thousands.

Those moments for me, though, only came after that time of waiting before Diana arrived, as I wondered could this really be the “due time of the Lord.”

Another ritual Mormons undertake is one of a patriarchal blessing, in which a particular priesthood holder gives a blessing regarding the future. The language is often left to interpretation, but when my patriarch told me that one day I’d get married in the temple and he included “in the due time of the Lord,” I feared that meant it was going to take me a while. And indeed it did.

The reason was pretty simple. I wasn’t ready. I thought I was, several times, but I wasn’t. I needed to grow up. I’m a slow learner and adulthood took a while to set in.

Thank goodness. I wouldn’t be with Diana otherwise. She’s beautiful and brilliant. She’s patient.

She arrived that morning 15 years ago as eager as I was to get the ceremony going, though unaware she was a bit late and not especially tuned into what tardiness that day might mean to someone who had waited 13 years for that day to finally arrive.

As always, Diana was worth the wait.

Happy Anniversary Diana.

Here’s a post to a Salt Lake Tribune story about young LDS men taking their time getting married.